Word count: 4,491
Notes: I cannot stop writing lately, which is great, but also unfair on the academic pursuits that keep getting elbowed out of the way by plot bunnies. Anyway, this is my attempt to give Dee her due - just as Amateur was for Anders - and once again it was written in a very short amount of time and I'm pleased with how it turned out. stars_like_dust has looked over most of it and given her gracious approval, but any remaining mistakes are my own and should be pointed out so that I can fix them and then hide my face.
Warning: it's depressing. It's as much about Lee as it is about his wife. And it has pretty much the exact opposite premise to Eleusis.
The title is taken from Any Day Now, a Missy Higgins song that I listened to a lot while writing this.
set light to me some surprising day
It is a new feeling to be ashamed of the echoes of her own feet, but death does strange things to the people it doesn’t rip apart. Dualla counts herself lucky to be in the first category, but she is living within the radius of someone in the latter, and she’s still learning the rules.
“Lee?” she calls, keeping her voice low.
“Why are you sitting in the dark?”
Before he can answer she reaches out and switches on the light, but is taken aback by Lee’s reaction: his head jerks and he looks pale, his eyes wide, the air suddenly struggling to make its way out of his mouth.
“Are you –” she starts, and can’t think of an adjective that’s even close to appropriate. So instead she undresses, crawls into the bed beside him and puts her hand on his leg, rubbing gently until his breathing calms down.
“I’m tired,” he says softly. “I’ll be all right if I get some rest.”
It would be very easy to say no, you won’t, to say: don’t lie to me, Lee. Easy, and she’d feel more like she had even the slightest grip on her marriage, but she doesn’t. She nods like she believes him, pulls up the sheets and kisses him on the cheek. “Sleep well.”
“Mm,” he says, already halfway gone.
He wakes up with nightmares, and she knows better than to ask.
There was a small amount of guilt when she found herself thinking: finally. It lingers when she lets herself think about the fact that she is patient with Lee’s raw grief because now, now, she has time now to patch him together in security, and for the first time she feels like her future can stop wobbling with uncertainty and infidelity and fall into focus. But on the whole, Anastasia Dualla doesn’t feel guilty. Doesn’t feel like maybe if she had pushed Apollo more firmly into Starbuck’s arms then this wouldn’t have happened. In one way she is purely, unselfishly glad that Lee stayed with her, because she is very sure that to have someone and lose them is infinitely worse than to never have them at all.
So she begins the patching job.
“Helo,” she says quietly, and nods towards the corner of the locker room. Lee’s fingers are turning a key over and over.
“Let me do that, Apollo,” Helo says smoothly.
“Lee,” the man says, warning and commiseration all at once, and Dee thanks him silently as he pulls the key out of his CAG’s hands and turns to open Starbuck’s locker. Dee never finds out what Helo sees fit to let Lee have, once he’s sorted and cleared everything out, but he sits next to her in the mess the next morning and hands her a torn photograph.
“I think,” he says, not meeting her eyes, “that it would be better if you held onto this. For the moment.” She recognises the shame and feels briefly awful about carrying on behind Lee’s back as though he needs sheltering, but her hand closes around the picture of Kara and Zak with a calm finality.
“Thank you,” she says.
Later, she pulls out the missing half and tapes the two together, and then places the whole picture inside the cover of a book. She remembers the day of the Galactica’s decommissioning, and the Old Man unwrapping a photograph of his sons, and thinks that maybe some day many years from now she will put this safely behind glass and a polished frame and give it to her husband, and it won’t hurt him at all; it will just be a picture of his brother and a woman he once loved.
There’s a certain tone of laughter that keeps getting caught in her mind, like one of those infuriating songs that the nuggets sing over the comms because they know that by the time they finish CAP the entire CIC will be humming them. Dee’s heard every one, scores of times, but she’s never become immune; and she knows the notes that crackle because they’re just the wrong pitch for the frequencies the Fleet employs, and she knows the filthy alternate lyrics that Starbuck teaches a class when they’ve graduated.
This laughter is like that, like an infectious obscenity, and sometimes Dee will pull her headset down for a moment and shake her head to clear it. Easier to remain blank and forget a hundred games of triad wherein she lost her cubits to the owner of that laugh; forget that she too has lost a friend, just when she was getting used to the idea of people staying alive.
She’s good, she’s subtle. Nobody notices, because nobody’s looking; because in the end, nobody thinks that she might have reason to grieve.
The funeral is ghastly, and Dee spends every second of it wishing that it was over. Lee sits beside her staring straight ahead, all of him pressed and polished; he looks perfect, like an illustration from an old textbook on military discipline. The air is heavy with tragedy, the coffin is empty, and Lee doesn’t move so much as a finger until he stands up to give the speech that the CAG gives at the funeral of a pilot.
The words have been as painfully, obviously polished as the buttons of his uniform, and Lee plods his way through the amusing anecdotes, the praise for her flying, with the same enthusiasm that he would put into reading out a refueling schedule. But between paragraphs he takes a slow breath, a little too near the microphone, and the ragged edge of bare control whispers around the room. He doesn’t notice the wince of dismay, the sudden tension – just keeps reading – but Dee feels slapped. Because funerals are like being impaled: you can’t throw yourself into avoidance, you have to remain in one place and squirm and think about what’s been lost, and in that single uneven breath she has been forced to confront the fact that Kara was his family. It never hit her before because she never bothered to look properly at the two of them; Captain Adama arrived and he was the Old Man’s son, and then it was the end of the world, and then there was Billy, and then Captain Adama became Apollo, the man she wished was in charge, then he became Lee; and through it all she never thought to make the connection between this new shining person and Starbuck, who was a constant. Someone she’d known for years. Starbuck was just Starbuck until she became the competition.
Dee forces her hand out of the fist and wishes savagely that someone had thought to warn her about family, and history, and the invisible supports that you can’t see until they’re cut away.
Lee’s on the home stretch, speaking a little faster, making his way stoically through the we will remembers, when suddenly she notices that he is gripping the edge of the podium too tightly. Like he’s going to throw up, like his knees have all but given way. And then he starts to shake, just a little, and then his mouth twists. His voice gives out last of all; one cracked word, one hiss of breath, and then Major Lee Adama is standing in front of the whole ship crying like a child.
People begin to ask her about Lee, more or less constantly, and she watches the concern war with wariness in their faces. Nobody wants to ask him directly. She never once considers telling them the truth; instead she begins by brushing them off, saying he’s fine, protecting his station. However, soon she realises that she needs to feed them enough to keep them from approaching him for confirmation, but little enough that his abilities are not in question.
So she does what any good military wife does when yanked up by the roots and set down somewhere else: she takes stock of her new surroundings without a murmur, and she adapts. She windbreaks. She channels the raw awful streams of public awareness around him in neat currents.
“Dee,” Kelly says, leaning close to her in the CIC, “I’ve noticed that Apollo’s landings have been a little off, is he…?”
“Improving,” she says, not quite smiling. “I think it’s going to take time.”
“Colonel?” the man says then. “The Admiral…”
“He’d be all the better,” Tigh growls, “if people would stop asking questions mid-shift and let him get on with his job.”
Tigh looks across at her and she sees recognition in his one good eye, something close to respect. They never compare notes on the realities, but their lies become interwoven, complementary. This is the military and dishonesty is against every code Dee has been brought up to believe in – but these lies are to protect Lee, so they’re acceptable; they’re expected; they’re past the realm of white lies and into the virtuous ground on the other side. These are silver lies, shining lies, lies the colour of medals and knives.
Lee tells her that he’s going to be assisting Lampkin in Baltar’s trial, and she isn’t surprised – she’s seen the way that he looks at those law books, the way his fingers linger over his grandfather’s name. But more than that, she’s seen his tendency to freeze up around Vipers and rotation lists and anything that might contain a conspicuous Starbuck-shaped gap, and she knows that he’s made a good decision. Maybe his first good one in a while. He won’t find Kara Thrace between the pages of Principles of Caprican Law; let her ghost stay in the cockpit where it belongs, and perhaps in time it will vanish from Lee’s eyes, and from the two inches of space between them in the bed at night.
The Top Gun mug sits on a shelf in the rec room, out of reach but not out of sight. Nobody claims it. Dee feels lost among the pilots, who have fierce, silent and profound rituals of their own. The comm chatter is subdued and formal, and nobody will look the CAG in the eye. They play triad because it’s all they’ve got when it comes to methods of unwinding, but the atmosphere is depressing and explosive, as though the wrong word will shatter everything. Sometimes it does.
“Frak this,” Racetrack says, setting her cards down neatly in the middle of a betting round and standing up. Dee can’t think of anything that could have triggered the girl’s reaction, but that’s pilots for you – it’s all about pattern recognition, and giving your eyes free rein, and maybe that particular combination of symbols has memories attached to it.
Dee waits for Racetrack’s wingman to follow her – oh, she knows the way this works, and it has very little to do with the act of flying - but everyone stares at their cards as she leaves the room. Dee reviews the patterns in her own mind and realises that nobody handles Racetrack except for Kat, who is gone, Helo, who is on duty, and Starbuck, who could yell sense or at least a useful kind of anger into pretty much anyone if she had to.
“Dee,” someone says awkwardly, and she discovers that her cards are scattered on the table and she’s standing.
“Look -” someone else starts, but she leaves before they can finish the just let her be or whatever it is that pilots say when they’re closing ranks and leaving her out.
People can be predictable: the first place Dee checks is the memory wall, and the second is the gym. Racetrack hasn’t bothered with most of the lights, and Dee feels an uneasy sense of familiarity at the sight of the girl, moving and hissing in the shadows cast by the punching bag.
“Frak you, Starbuck, frak you both – Kat – frak.” Every second word is punctuated with a furious slam of the girl’s fist, and when Racetrack catches sight of her, Dee is half-expecting to be hit; or at least snapped at. But the Raptor pilot just looks at her uncertainly, bouncing on the balls of her feet, giving her nothing, waiting for her to make the first move.
And Dee is floored; having surrounded herself with people who retreat into themselves, repress and snap and sulk, the sight of such painful anger is alien. She’d like to say something sympathetic to justify her presence, but she has spent so much time ruthlessly hooking her own sharp edges together that she is hopelessly tangled, smothered in discipline. One word might trip the crosswires and everything will come pouring out.
Racetrack holds her gaze, occasionally throwing another hard punch at the bag, and eventually Dee leaves.
The hatch to the quarters she shares with Lee has swung almost closed, but there’s still a small sliver of light, and she’s about to put her hand against the metal and step inside when she hears Romo Lampkin’s voice saying, “But why should you feel guilty?”
She promised herself a while ago that she would never again be the one standing just outside the frame, listening in, but this conversation is something she wants to hear and something she would not be allowed to hear, if she entered. This calculation is done in less than a heartbeat and she steps to the side, lets the light and sound trickle through uninterrupted.
“Because I told her to trust me. Because I told her – I told her to do it, that I’d fly her wing.”
“Fly her wing?”
“It means that…that I’d have her back, that I’d be there for her…”
“I take your meaning,” Lampkin says. “One of those military things, I gather.”
After a moment - “Yes.” Lee sounds distant and quite cold. “One of those military things.”
A sigh from Lampkin. “I hear what you’re saying, Major, I really do, but I must ask: why are you telling me all of this, rather than someone you actually like?”
“I don't know,” and Lee gives that little laugh of his, the desperate one. “I guess I need to talk about it with someone who isn't...connected. To me, to her, to all of it.”
“I see. So you don't believe in the gods, so a priest won't be any help, and you won't see a therapist because that'd be admitting something and you are -”
“- a serial contrarialist, I know.” This time Lee's laugh is almost normal.
“Then I shall proclaim myself honoured... ” a pause, in which Dee imagines the man giving one of those odd, mocking inclinations of his body “...and reiterate that you seem to be quite angry at yourself over this. More so, perhaps, than reason would dictate?”
“I have to be.” Lee sighs. “I have to be mad at myself, and mad at Dad, or -”
“- you'll be mad at her.” Lampkin's voice slides under his, effortlessly. Neither of them speak for a while, and Dee presses her palms against the wall, thinking about Racetrack.
“And she doesn't deserve that,” Lee says, the affirmation clear, his voice accelerating across its own uncertainty. “Well, she does. She was stubborn and abrasive and unstable and I loved her, gods, I loved her.. ”
And that's enough, for now; Dee is good - she's very good - but she's only human. As far as she knows. She makes a big show of turning the hatch wheel loudly, as though she hadn't noticed it was already open.
“Hey,” Lee smiles at her, but it doesn't creep higher than the edges of his mouth.
“Ah, the missus,” Lampkin says without missing a beat, like he wasn't just listening to the story of her husband's tragic love for someone else. “I'll be going, then.”
He gives her a deliberate glance as he leaves, but those ridiculous sunglasses are in the way, so if he is trying to tell her something then she has no idea what it is.
Both she and Lee make a point of talking to Sam, because nobody else wants to. Dee doesn’t try to stop him from drinking, and he seems to reward her for this courtesy by remaining at least lucid in her presence.
“How’s Lee finding the lawyering gig?”
“It’s going well, actually.” She likes this kind of question, the kind where she can tell the truth. “It’s something he’s always wanted to do, and I think he’s got a gift for it.”
Sam gives a hiccup, possibly a laugh. “Perfect pilot and perfect lawyer. Man’s got an unfair distribution of talent, if you ask me.” But there’s no malice in his voice.
Dee watches him swig from the bottle, and doesn’t think that it’s quite that simple. Lee’s firm resolution that his job came first had been crumbling rapidly ever since Kara died, the day he landed his Viper and then refused to get out of it for two hours, and he’d been looking over his grandfather’s books with increasing regularity. Dee has a quiet suspicion that it was only Starbuck who was keeping him in the sky in the first place, and his own stubbornness second.
"You know what's a frakking stupid-sounding word, Dee?" Sam slurs abruptly. "Widower."
“Sam.” She sighs.
“Kara would have laughed at it. Sounds like I should be wearing a black veil and throwing…throwing ashes…” His face wavers. “Frakking silly.”
Dee nods; he wants to talk, and she’s a good listener. That’s fine.
“Why did she just…just let herself…” He gives a low sigh and leans back, runs one hand through the hair that is curling with even more abandon every day. “What the frak did we do wrong, Dee?” he asks, a much bigger question than is immediately apparent, and she realises with a thud that this man’s wife all but committed suicide and behind the public drunkenness he’s been quietly, undramatically blaming himself. For a cold angry moment she is quite sick of Adama men.
“Nothing,” she says intensely. “We didn’t…you didn’t do anything.”
“I fell in love with Kara Thrace.” Anders shrugs and gives a small smile.
“That would just appear to be one of those things,” she says, and smiles back despite herself, “that otherwise perfectly sane men have a habit of doing.”
There’s a little bit of a lie in there, but it’s one of those silver ones, so it’s all right.
Almost without noticing it, she starts to gradiate the light that infiltrates their world. She learns to navigate the room in darkness, to program their artificial mornings to occur earlier and earlier. She’s not exactly sure why until the night that Lee absently switches a lamp on and then jumps as though it’s exploded in his hand.
“Startled myself,” he says, but his eyes are wild.
Dee has no idea if anyone else has noticed, but she’s perfected her buffering act to the point where she’s certainly not going to draw their attention to anything out of the ordinary. Lee’s doing his job, not endangering anyone, and everyone has an astronomical tolerance level for the Adamas at the moment. Again, it comes down to family, so obviously that it hurts: the crew of the Galactica is acting like Lee has been widowed and the Admiral has lost his only daughter, like they’re all the family the other has left. Adama hasn’t invited her to his quarters in a while. On the most unbearable days it seems like these men never wanted the perfect military asset that she is, but the frak-up. Kara Thrace was their excuse, their outlet, and by loving her they could love the worst parts of themselves without guilt.
“Everything all right?” she asks sleepily, watching Lee’s fingers tremble before they close over the glass of water he was looking for.
“I’m sorry.” He takes a gulp and then lies back down, flicking off the lamp again. “I’m a poor excuse for a husband at the moment.”
“You miss her,” she says. “I understand.”
Lee pulls her close with one arm and brushes his lips against her hair. “I’d give anything to have her back,” he says, and he sounds lost and very young; and she knows that it’s just a figure of speech and he doesn’t mean for it to sound quite so damning. But she runs through a mental list of all the things that Lee Adama might be persuaded not to give up to have Kara Thrace back, beginning with his father and ending with his wife – remembers him flying endless rings around a tiny red moon, burning up fuel - and despite the warmth of his body she lies there in the chill certainty that he absolutely would.
“You know.” She flickers with an expertly resigned look. “It’s tough, but he’s coping.”
She ducks into the head and out of the way of any follow-up questions, and relishes the feel of the water on her skin. She slaps handful after handful onto her face before the automatic instinct of waste minimisation catches up with her and she shuts off the tap. But she’s enjoying the thrumming, metallic sounds, and the edge of ice as cool air brushes her wet face, and being alone, so she settles herself with her back to the wall and starts unhooking parts of herself from other parts of herself. It’s a good spot for it. People pass through and give her the occasional odd look or tentative smile, but nobody wants to start a conversation, and she’s grateful.
Felix Gaeta only throws a glance her way as he dries his hands, but he pauses near the hatch, and then comes and slides down the wall until he is sitting next to her.
She nods at him, ushers the next lie into position; waits.
“How’re you holding up, Dee?” he says, his voice warm with brusque sympathy.
She stares at him for two seconds and then, to her great surprise, she bursts into tears: silent messy sobs that distort and drench her face. She cries on and on, and little drowning noises escape into the unforgiving metal room, and Felix frowns and puts his arm around her and lets her make a disaster of his dress blues.
She only realises how much of her strength hinges on the hope that some day things will improve when it starts seeming like they never will. Lee is flattening out, burying himself in legalities, acting like a number version of normal until someone turns on a light. Dee sits in their quarters with her hands covering her face for a half an hour, and then stands up and walks down to the infirmary before she can have second thoughts.
“I think there’s something wrong with Lee,” she blurts, and sits down on a bed that’s as empty as she feels.
Doc Cottle raises his eyebrows. “And how long did it take you to arrive at this genius diagnosis?” he says, but she’s known him for a while and she can hear the sympathy behind his sarcasm, so she stares at her hands and starts listing symptoms. Anything she can think of.
And then, silence.
When Cottle’s voice scratches out the words post-traumatic stress disorder, her first instinct is to walk out of the room because it’s so big, it’s so dramatic that it’s ridiculous, and every part of her wants to laugh the idea away. But she has told one shining scalpel of a lie after another – oh, he’s coping – and they have sliced her closer and closer to the bone, and she knows that he isn’t coping. Not really. And so she holds herself still on top of the cool sheets and forces herself to exhale.
“Tell me more,” she says.
One way or another, Cottle bullies Lee into a long – and probably one-sided – conversation, from which Lee returns looking shell-shocked and a little ashamed. He leans against the wall and looks at Dee as though he’s seeing her for the first time.
“It’s nothing special,” he says eventually. “Cottle says that there’s been practically an epidemic of it in the Fleet, especially among those who were on the ground during the initial attacks. It’s just –”
“I know,” Dee says, and she does. They’re the protectors of the Colonial Fleet, and they should be able to cope with death. Just because everyone else is handling him with kid gloves doesn’t mean he will do the same to himself. She takes a deep breath. “Lee, you saw your best friend’s ship explode. Nobody is expecting you to get over it in a hurry.”
“I know that.” He sounds almost snappish, for a moment; he looks away and Dee holds fast to the words nothing special. Their situation is not unique, and it’s good that he realises it.
“We’ll get through this,” she says, and touches his arm, and is rewarded by the slow flush of affection on his face.
“I would be so lost if I didn’t have you,” he says simply.
Her chest contracts and she doesn’t know what to say to that – I know? Thank you for noticing? – but she can feel a smile on her face that is almost unfamiliar as she leans up to kiss him.
“I’m proud to know you, Lieutenant,” Lee murmurs, and slips his arms around her, and Dee listens to the steadiness of his heart and is very glad that she’s already cried herself dry.
Adama talks to her about things that don’t mean anything, and she knows that he desperately wants to know how his son is, wants to talk to him. But neither of them is going to apologise and it looks like she’s going to have to be the bridge, again. Things have changed since she sat and watched the Old Man fiddle with his model ship, and dared to tell him what family was. Now the model is in pieces and she has every right to call him her father, and she is letting him talk, giving her responses in slow subtle spirals and praying that he will follow her to the centre.
This is what she does: she is there to be talked at by Adama men and to pull them back together when they are too proud to do it themselves. One day Kara Thrace will not live in all of their conversations, one day she will be nothing more than a photograph; but until then, these two men whom she loves more than anything else in the world have to keep going, because they’re still humanity’s best chance.
“The trial’s tomorrow,” Adama says, uselessly.
“Yes,” she says, mustering one more lie for his sake. “I’m sure Lee will be glad to see you.”
And the blade slips a little deeper, but it’s nothing she can’t handle.